It takes two to tango – yes, it most certainly does! In any form of cricket, a good start is of utmost importance. The same is all the more true when it comes to the Twenty20 format where you need a solid base for the middle-order to build on and post a match-winning score or to chase a total down. Ahead of the eleventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2018), we take a look at the five most successful opening pairs in the history of the tournament.
Ever since the inception of the league in the year 2008, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has seen some of the most lethal opening partnerships develop and flourish over the past decade.
5 most successful opening pairs in Indian Premier League history:
1. David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
Perhaps one of the most effective opening pairs in the history of IPL, current captain David Warner and former captain Shikhar Dhawan have been instrumental in the Sunrisers Hyderabad‘s rise to the top echelons of the league in recent years. The franchise’s title-winning run in the 2016 IPL season can also be attributed to the dynamic duo’s bursts at the top of the order and the flexibility it lent to the rest of the batting lineup. Even statistically, no other pair on this list has put together fifty-plus stands with the frequency of Warner and Dhawan. Coach Tom Moody and the Sunrisers’ management will be hoping for yet another feisty and consistent combination from the duo at the top of the order in IPL 2018.
2. Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
Any bowler in world cricket is bound to have a hard time bowling to Royal Challengers Bangalore‘s – Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli, both incredible stroke-makers with an ability to change the course of a game in a matter of few overs. Throw in the batting beauty that is the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, Gayle and Kohli have emerged as one of the most destructive opening pairs to have ever come taken shape in the IPL. The duo were in particularly lethal form in the 2016 season, with bowlers from almost every other team feeling the heat when coming up against Gayle and Kohli. With Chris Gayle moving to Kings XI Punjab at the auction this year, sadly, we have probably already seen the end of this successful ride.
3. Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Probably not as destructive as the other opening pairs on this list, but Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa formed an extremely successful partnership at the top of the order for Kolkata Knight Riders in their time together at the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise. KKR’s title-winning run in 2014 was largely down to Uthappa and Gambhir setting up games with dominant opening stands. As the season approached its final stages, their stands read 121, 106, 68 and 58 at one point, part of their hot streak of 14 wins in the lead-up to the final in the 2014 edition of the tournament. Like Gayle and Kohli, this partnership is also highly unlikely to be seen together again, with Gambhir going back to join his home franchise Delhi Daredevils ahead of the 2018 season.
4. Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith (Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Lions)
When you put together two naturally uber-aggressive batsmen to open the innings for your team, fireworks are expected and that is exactly what happened when MS Dhoni decided to pair the belligerent duo of Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith as the two openers for the Chennai Super Kings in the 2014 season of the league. A firebrand combination, McCullum and Smith made it a habit to deflate opposition bowling attacks early on, sending them on leather hunts, with the CSK middle order later joining in to pile on the agony on opposition bowlers. The duo, who are often touted as one of the best opening pairs in IPL, continued their destructive partnership under the Gujarat Lions banner in 2016 and 2017. After four seasons together at the top of the order, the duo’s numbers tell a simple story: when they put together a stand of any significance, their side almost always ended up winning.
5. Murali Vijay and Michael Hussey (Chennai Super Kings)
What they lacked in glamour and style, Vijay and Hussey made up for almost all of it with determination, grit and substance. While the duo were never really acclaimed as a great opening pair, their statistics at the top of the order are as good as all the rest of the opening pairs in this list. Vijay and Hussey are also among the rare few pairs in the history of IPL to have put together over 1000 runs in match-winning causes. It is an astounding number, considering the fact that neither batsman started off the IPL with a big-hitting reputation. Between 2011 and 2013, the pair put together a number of significant stands in must-win fixtures for MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings, the most notable of which was their 159-run epic against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2011 final.